x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Activists' trial returns to court

Lawyer for five men accused of threatening state security says the website where allegedly illegal comments were made had been blocked from the public months beforehand.

ABU DHABI //The trial of five activists charged with threats to state security resumed in open court today with defence lawyers presenting their case, arguing that comments the men made were not made in a public forum.

Ahmed Mansour Ali Abdullah Al Abd Al Shehi, Nasser Ahmed Khalfan bin Gaith, Fahad Salim Mohammed Salim Dalk, Hassan Ali Al Khamis and Ahmed Abdul Khaleq - four of them Emirati, the other without nationality documents - are accused of instigation to break laws, committing acts that pose a threat to state security, undermining public order, opposing the government system and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

They are being tried in State Security Court before Judge Ahmad Abdulhameed.

The five have denied the charges and none appeared in court, citing what they say is unfair treatment.

Attorney Mohammed Al Rukun argued that under UAE law, insults must be made in a public place to be considered criminal, but the site uaehewar.net had been blocked starting from February, months before the alleged comments — and was therefore not public.

Even if the men did make the comments in question, he argued, they were not illegal because they were not inciting violence.

He argued that confessions signed by the men were made under duress, as many of them were held for up to 48 hours after their arrest without a chance to pray or use the bathroom.

A verdict in the trial is expected on November 27.